Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW) hospital implemented a rehabilitation service for people recovering from upper limb illness or injury using robotic equipment. The NHW project team applied for funding from the Better Care Victoria (BCV) Innovation Fund seeking the support to grow and embed the innovative upper limb rehabilitation program into their model of care. As a BCV Innovation funded project, support was given to NHW to carry out their project. This included coaching and workshops to develop their capabilities and to strengthen their leadership skills. Watch the full video to hear more from the director and project officers at NHW, and interviews with some of the consumers using the service in their recovery journey.
The robotic project is all about providing high quality evidence-based rehabilitation for those who have upper limb impairment as a consequence of neurological illness or injury. The core purpose of the project is about providing a model of care and to be able to bring the best services to people locally in a rural area. The idea came about from input from our clinicians about what is the thing we need to do for the people that we serve and robotics, interactive gamification of rehabilitation were things that came up as being prime areas of development.
This project is really important to NHW and the local community because our vision is to be leaders in health care and we are actually the first regional hospital, public hospital in Australia to offer this state-of-the-art technology. The local community have actually invested their funds to enable us to purchase the robotics. So being able to do this project to make sure the model of care we’re providing is important in demonstrating our trust to the community as well. The regional area often means that for patient to get that speciality intervention they might have to travel outside of their local area and that can be a cost to the patient but also that burden of emotionally having to travel outside of what’s familiar to them.
Robotics technology works by allowing patients to practice repetitive motor tasks while playing fun and engaging and motivating computer-based games. Our service currently has six different robotic devices and these activities and games can all be graded depending on the level of motor control which a patient has. And all these games provide feedback and encouragement to the patient throughout their therapy. Staff really love the program as their able to deliver consistent, high intensity, engaging therapy. It’s really changed the way we deliver upper limb therapy to our clients and early outcome measures have been very positive and we really look forward to seeing the final results.
Back in February I had a stroke, which affected all my right-hand side. I didn’t have any movement or strength or anything in my right leg or my right arm. I think it’s really helped with my motivation and it’s just been fantastic because I’m just getting so much out of it.
To see Kaye from when she had the stroke to now, improvement in her right side has been phenomenal. Yeah, she worked pretty hard at it all and it’s helped her enormously.
I had a stroke, brain stem stroke because I got pneumonia. And I couldn’t walk, can’t talk or swallow. Hands were all over, I was like a rag doll. Well I play the robotics and they have several games on different things. And I use also my hands and talk so it’s social. I’ve gotten stronger in my arms. I haven’t been assessed yet but I think it’s helping.
I think we’re the only one up in the north-east, as far as I know, and the next closest is Melbourne. I just wouldn’t be able to afford to go up and down to Melbourne to get the equipment.
We’ve had lots of health services contact us around how they could and which robotic devices could be used, and part of the project was really to be able to provide them with informed information. What we can say at this point is that robotic therapy provides intensive and engaging upper limb therapy. We would suggest that rural and regional health services aim high, that it is actually possible to implement a robotic model of care into health services.
Well there’s has been many factors that have been essential to the success of this project: the support of the community to enable us to purchase the robotics in the first place. It’s also given us some great opportunities to connect with other experts in the field around robotics and this type of intervention. Executive support, they’ve been behind this project and this concept for many years. And Better Care Victoria, we’re just really grateful for the commitment they’ve had to us. They’ve really seen the value of the communities’ engagement and the commitment from the organisation to be able to provide this to a regional area.
Our next step would be to embed the robotics program into our community setting. Our aim is to have this as our usual care of upper limb therapy for people who are experiencing upper limb impairment.